Monday, September 22, 2014

Vivian's First Camping Trip

Justin's training course was finally completed early this month.  He took two weeks of leave right afterwards.  The first week we spent visiting with family.  We decided to use the second week to take a camping trip to Canyonlands National Park.  Arches National Park is also nearby, so we figured we would leave on Monday, spend a few days in Canyonlands, and possibly hit Arches too before we returned Thursday night.  We thought it would be a good idea to come home on Thursday.  That way we would leave ourselves a few days to get unpacked and settled back in before Justin goes back to work next week.  We packed an extra days worth of clothes, just in case we decided not to head back until Friday morning.

We ended up leaving a late on Monday, after taking Vivian to be added into the army's computer system as a dependent, and stopping at the store to buy few last minute miscellaneous supplies.  We made pretty good time, but still didn't arrive in Moab, UT until about 6pm or so, where we stopped to purchase some firewood and enjoy an experience that we now just refer to as "poops on the loose."  Suffice it to say that Vivian was strapped back into her car seat minus her little outfit, and acting a lot happier than she had been before the incident that ended in a wet wipe bath.

The Canyonland's campground was full, because, as we learned later on, the campground was filled 30 minutes after checkout time that morning.  It would seem that we aren't the only ones who thought that coming in the fall would be a great idea.  My husband, however, is thankfully a bit more of a planner than me, so he had already researched out neighboring BLM campgrounds.  We secured ourselves one of the last remaining campsites there, hurried and set up camp and started working on the fire...and hours later there we were, still working on the fire.  We eventually realized that it's a horrible idea to buy firewood from an establishment that stores the wood outside in an area that has just experienced record breaking rainfall.  We finally gave up and made ourselves peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and went to bed.

The next morning we woke up and left to go explore the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands.  (Canyonlands is split up into four districts: Island in the Sky (most tourist friendly), The Needles, The Maze (accessible only to backpackers), and The Rivers (which is the actual rivers that run through the park))  We stopped in at the visitor's center to buy a hat for Vivian.  For some reason we weren't able to find one for sale anywhere back home before we left.  The smallest one they had was still for toddlers, but we figured it was better than nothing, so we bought it.
I strapped her in the baby bjorn, and then covered her with a light swaddler blanket to keep the sun off of her limbs.  She looked weird, but it worked well, and the hat was nice because I could shift it around to keep the sun off her face without having to cover it completely with the blanket.
Don't judge me, we were camping without any running water.
Island in the sky consisted of several overlooks with genuinely beautiful views out over the canyons.
Justin at Shafer Canyon Overlook
Green River Overlook
Justin at Dead Horse Point State Park, which is conveniently right next door to Island in the Sky
Justin at Grand View Point Overlook

We also went on three short little hikes.  We would have liked to do something more ambitious, but it was so blazing hot outside that we were a little wary of having Vivian out in the heat for any of the longer hikes.  A couple of these hikes had signs up at the trailheads that discouraged visitors from hiking them in July and August because of the extreme heat.  As you can probably imagine, they were still really hot in mid-September.

Vivian and I at Upheaval Dome

Whale Rock

Mesa Arch
By the end of the day we were feeling pretty satisfied with our time in Island in the Sky and decided to leave the next morning to go to the Needles District the next morning.  Another attempt at a campfire failed miserably, our soggy wood still refused to burn for more than a few minutes before going out.  We ended up roasting hotdogs on burning kindling and they ended up kind of charred on the outside and warmish on the inside.  Another sub-par dinner.

We left early the next morning and drove the two hours out to the Needles to make sure that we secured ourselves a campsite in the park.  We got there in plenty of time, and our campsite was actually pretty amazing.  There was also running water there, a bonus since there had been no such luxury at the last one.
You can't see here, but there are bushes and trees on either side that obscure our campsite from the neighbors.
Our first day in the Needles seemed to be a bit of a fiasco.  We realized shortly after arriving and setting up camp that we needed gas, and that required a two-hour round trip drive into Monticello.  We still made it back out to the Needles in time to complete a few short hikes.

Roadside Ruin
That thing at the top is supposedly some sort of Indian granary.

Cave Springs Trail
Slick Rock Trail
We actually abandoned Slick Rock Trail part way through.  There was a thunderstorm threatening, and it was moving our direction faster than we liked.  We headed back to camp, made dinner on the gas stove that night, which went a lot better, and then climbed in the tent for the night.  

We had all started drifting off to sleep, when in a move that I attribute to divine intervention, I decided to wake up the baby and nurse her one more time before putting her in the swaddler for the night.  I had just fed her a little while earlier, so I knew I didn't have much for her, but I felt like I should, so I got up and was nursing her by flashlight, when I caught a glimpse of something, that we believe to be some sort of scorpion darting through the folds of her swaddler.  I woke Justin up, and he got rid of it.  We got settled back in for the night, but I don't think that either Justin or myself slept all that well after that.  All night long I was sure something was crawling on me.  At least Vivian wasn't swaddled up with a scorpion.  

Prior to the scorpion incident Justin and I had briefly talked about leaving Canyonlands the next day, extending the trip a day, and driving to Natural Bridges National Monument, spending the night in Capitol Reef National Park, and visiting Bryce Canyon National Park on our way home Friday evening.  After the scorpion incident it was a sealed deal.  We both wanted to strip everything out of the tent and get a chance to shake it all out.  We woke up early the next morning and packed up camp.  We had one hike called Chesler Park that we wanted to do before we left.  It was only 6 miles round trip, but it turned out to be a little harder than we had anticipated, so we were glad that we had left early in the morning while it was still cooler.

Because of the time of day, we were really backlit in that last picture, but you can see that Vivian is sporting only a diaper.  As soon as we arrived in Chesler Park she immediately blew out her diaper.  Fortunately, we had thought to bring along an extra diaper and wipes, just not an extra outfit.  We didn't think to bring an extra pair of pants for me either, since I always seem to be the one victimized by these blow outs.  Although, I was sweating so much hauling her up there that I figured that I already smelled bad enough that the baby poop probably didn't matter much at that point.

On the way back out we were making really great time.  We were moving pretty fast because we wanted to get off the trail before it got really hot, and we also wanted to be on the road before it got too late.  We got to a place where the trail splits into different directions, and Justin was stopping to look at the sign.  I rushed him, and told him we needed to keep moving, so we hustled past it pretty the wrong direction.  An hour or so later we were out of water, hiking through terrain that didn't look even vaguely familiar and wondering when this hike was going to end.  We had been worried about me getting dehydrated and it affecting my milk supply, so I had been drinking a ton of water and was doing okay, Vivian had been nursed at Chesler Park, and we had used some of the last of our water to dump on her to make sure she was staying cool, so she was holding up just fine, but Justin had stopped sweating, which is never really a great sign when you're hiking through the desert at mid-day.  Hours and miles later than we had planned the trail spit us back out at the campground where we had stayed the night before, which was about four miles from the trailhead where our car was parked.  There was water at the campground, so after rehydrating, Justin left Vivian and I there in a shady spot, and had to go hitch hike his way back to the car.  Some random guy from Germany picked him up and gave him a ride.

Getting lost put us really behind schedule, so we didn't end up getting to Natural Bridges National Monument until late afternoon/early evening.  We would have liked to have hiked down to some of the bridges, but there simply was not enough time.

You may note that Vivian does not appear in this last picture of us by the sign.  That's because after dragging her in and out of the car at different bridge overlooks, she had become excessively crabby, and finally fallen asleep.  We decided it was best to just pullover, snap the picture without waking her, and continue on our way.  She woke up again as soon as we got back in the car.  We thought that since we were behind schedule that we might just camp at Lake Powell for the night.  By the time we arrived at the sadly inadequate campground at Lake Powell, Vivian let us know that she had been pushed too far.  We had, after all, dragged her out at the crack of dawn to pack up camp, then carted her through the desert all morning and afternoon, and thwarted her multiple attempts at a late afternoon nap with all sorts of interruptions with everything from cattle guards, and fueling stops, to scenic overlooks.  She had run out of patience with us, and it became apparent that this was going to be a hotel night.  

We drove into Hanksville, a town no bigger than it sounds, and checked into the Whispering Sands Motel, which was, to our surprise much nicer than we had dared hope.  Not only did it not cost us an arm and a leg, but it was clean.  We got to take much needed hot showers, and Vivian got a bath in the sink and then fell asleep and slept for an astonishing 10+ hours that night.  I had to wake her up twice to eat and she dropped right back off to sleep afterwards.  We finally had to wake her up to get to the last 10 minutes of our complimentary breakfast.  She was much more herself the next morning and we decided that with a little more rest and all of us clean again that we could extend the trip one more day, and instead of driving home, camp the night in Bryce Canyon.

We got into Capitol Reef National Park in the late morning and went on a recommended scenic drive and visited a few overlooks.
Justin on a stop along the scenic drive
The Goosenecks Overlook
Panorama Point
We also had time for one short hike to Hickman Natural Bridge.  Our legs were still pretty stiff from the previous days adventures in the desert, but we found this hike to be well worth our efforts.
We left Capitol Reef and drove over Boulder Mountain, through Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, and on to Bryce Canyon.
At the top of Boulder Mountain

Scenic overlook at Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
It seems like there is never enough time for us to see and do everything that we want to when Justin and I go on a trip.  This was little expedition was no exception to that rule.  We wished that we had another week to burn just to explore the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, but we didn't, so we're already thinking we'll have to go back there again some time to do it justice.

We got to Bryce early Friday evening.  Justin dropped Vivian and I off at the visitor's center for me to nurse her, while he rushed off to try and secure us a campsite, since we had been told there were only a few open ones remaining.  Thankfully, he was able to find us one, and we hurried and set up camp and then left to go take in a couple of overlooks before it got dark.  At the very first overlook Justin took this picture:
He handed me the camera and I was getting ready to take a very cute picture of him holding Vivian, and then literally, at the very moment I hit the shutter, the camera battery died.  Our camera has an internal battery that charges from a USB port, and we had left the charger at home.  So there we were in Bryce with no camera.  We ended up racing into town, paying $10 for a disposable film camera, and rushing back out to snap the pictures.  They haven't been developed yet, so standby for those.

We returned to camp where our third and final efforts at building a campfire were at long last successful.  The next morning we went on a hike that went all the way down to the bottom of the canyon and then back up again.  The trail coming back up looked alarmingly steep, but Justin agreed to take Vivian for the trip back out.  We loved the hike, but we could have done without the other tourists.  Something we learned early on during this camping trip is that the fall is when the parks are overloaded with foreignors, and senior citizens, with a large number of people falling into both categories.  They travel in packs from one park to the other in a big tour that starts in Zion and ends at the Grand Canyon.  We felt like we had stumbled into the middle of some sort of senior citizen trip.  We saw two or three other families with children the entire trip.  Naturally Vivian was a huge hit, with the old folks, and we quickly discovered that the word "baby" seems to be universal to all languages since we would hear it all the time mixed in with a foreign language, as we passed people on the trails.  Until that hike in Bryce people had been very nice, and even openly supportive of me packing a baby around on the trails.  We were halfway through the Bryce hike when some old guy shouted at Justin as we passed "Dad should be carrying the baby!"  Justin said that he wanted to yell back "Grandpa should mind his own business!"  There is a part of me that wishes that he had.  

When we got about halfway through the switchbacks out of the canyon I told Justin it was his turn to take her.  We found a shady corner, and while we were readjusting the carrier for Justin some guy who seemed overly concerned about his own health (Justin had spotted him earlier on the trail stopping to check his pulse), told us that he thought that Vivian looked red and was overheating.  She wasn't red, or overheating, and we basically ignored him, but the other older couple there taking a break suddenly assumed a look of alarm and judgement while watching us.  We got more looks of concern when Vivian suddenly decided she was hungry and wanted to nurse NOW!  She started writhing around in the carrier, and screaming at the top of her lungs.  People were staring at Justin like he was killing her, and me like I was incompetent for not realizing what was happening.  We hustled ourselves up out of the canyon faster than I would have thought that I was capable, if you had asked me a minute or two prior to her outburst.  Back at the overlook I nursed her and all was well again.  

We decided that we had time for one more little hike and then it was time to head home.  We hiked to a place called Mossy Cave, and saw a waterfall along the way that I think is one of the coolest ones I've ever seen, so hopefully those pictures come out well.  After that we determined that it was time to head home.  We decided to take highway 89 home instead of I-15.  It was a much better drive, in our opinion, and we made it back to our apartment Saturday evening.  

This was our first family camping trip, and in many ways it went really well, but we learned a few things along the way.  Our baby is a fantastic sleeper, and I would love to attribute it to some brilliant parenting move on my part but, the truth is that she just came to us that way.  She slept just as well in a tent as she does at home.  The only down side to this, is that she also doesn't typically require any night time diaper changes.  Instead she saves everything up, and then has a series of massive bowel movements every morning.  Typically, at least one of them escapes the confines of her diaper.  We packed 13 outfits for her.  We used all but two, both of which were long-sleeved and inappropriate for the weather most of days we were gone.   Next time we will pack an extra outfit for me, so I don't smell like a sweaty dirty diaper all day following a morning blow out.  We thought we had packed enough diaper wipes, but after "poops on the loose" and a few days of camping in sites without running water, where we used some of her wipes to conduct our own personal hygiene, our wipes supply reached critical levels and we were forced to pay an exorbitant price to replenish them at a gas station along the way.  Next time we will pack more. We also bought one case of water bottles for the trip, even though we knew that some of our campsites wouldn't have water, and the weather would be hot and dry the entire trip.  We ended up needing three, and again, paying a ridiculous amount for the two that were purchased along the way.  Next time we will buy a sufficient amount.  Next time we will buy the firewood in town before we leave, from an establishment that stores it indoors, so that it doesn't take the entire trip to dry out enough to actually burn.  Next time we will bring our back up cameras with us, and a way to charge our other camera in the car.  Next time we will be diligent about keeping our tent zipped up all the way, rather than just most of the way.  Next time we will have an emergency supply of formula/baby food on hand should Vivian freak out on the trail where it's difficult to stop and nurse.  I can't wait for next time, and I hope that it will be just as much fun as it was time. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

So Yesterday We Almost Died in Colorado...

Justin had the day off yesterday, and of course we had all kinds of ideas of things we wanted to do to make good use of the freedom, and then we planned nothing.  This sort of thing happens to us all the time, so we ended up leaving the house around noon yesterday to drive three and a half hours to Dinosaur National Monument...after we stopped at Wal-Mart to replenish our supply of baby diapers.  Our drive took a little longer than anticipated getting out there, since we quickly realized that we now have to stop for diaper changes and nursing sessions.  

When we finally arrived at our destination we toured the quarry full of dinosaur bones.

We decided to take a little hike back down to the visitor's center.  It wasn't much of a hike, more like a walk, but the scenery was beautiful. 
After yet another diaper change, we went on a driving tour of the park, to see some petroglyphs and such.
We finished with plenty of daylight still left, so we then decided that it might be fun to leave the park, and drive around to the Colorado entrance, where there are several overlook spots on the way into the park that are reportedly very pretty.  We hadn't really planned on going to Colorado, but we figured that we had nothing to lose.  We stopped several times at some of the first little overlook spots.  We noticed a storm nearby, and it looked interesting, lot's of lightning off in the distance, but didn't give it too much thought.
Justin was starting to worry that it was going to be too dark by the time we got to the best overlooks, so he started speeding.  Because I'm a bit of a backseat driver I was all over his case about slowing down.  We were seeing a lot of deer and I was worried he was going to fly around one of the corners and hit one.  We finally got to the first major overlook, and we were at about 7,800 feet altitude, and there suddenly seemed to be quite a bit of lightning near us.  We reached the turnoff for that overlook, and neither Justin or I felt great about heading out there.  We were starting to see a lot of lightning out that direction, and it seemed uncomfortably close, so we skipped it and decided we'd go to the next one.  We kept driving and before we reached the next turn off we both started to feel very uneasy about the situation.  Now there was a lot of lightning and it seemed like it was closing in from all directions.  We pulled over and I got out to take one picture.  
Justin started pestering me to get back into the car with "if you get hit with lightning I'm going to be so mad at you!"  Another couple of bolts nearby and I decided to heed his advice and get back in the car.  We turned around and started heading back out of the park.  The deer were still an issue, so we couldn't go too fast.  In fact, we now noticed that the deer were travelling in herds.  Neither Justin or I have ever seen anything like it, and in retrospect it still seems very surreal.  We realized, after we finally saw the biggest buck I have ever laid eyes on lead a group of five other deer across the road in front of us in a dead sprint, that the deer were all headed to low ground.  This was when we realized that we were thousands of feet in the air on basically a flat plateau, with no trees, or really anything out there, except big, wide open spaces, and as Justin so eloquently put it "in our little metal box."  What initially seemed like a bad situation, suddenly became a REALLY bad, REALLY scary situation.  The storm rolled in until it was directly overhead, and we were still there, on that stupid road, nothing around us except lightning striking every couple of seconds, so close that several times Justin and I both felt the electric pulse from the bolts.  You know how you see the clouds light up from a distance, but no bolt comes out of them...  Since we were right there in the storm we could see the lightning shooting through the clouds over our heads, and worse yet, sometimes we just saw the flash and could tell that the lightning was pretty much directly overhead.  It was pouring rain, Justin was going as fast he dared on the wet roads, and then it turned to hail and started coming down so hard that our visibility was literally probably only 6 inches, and the lightning was hitting so close to the car at that point that I was certain that the next bolt would hit us for sure.  Justin remarked later that the bolts were so close that each one left him with an almost dazed feeling.  It was simultaneously one of the most spectacular things I've ever witnessed, and one of the most terrifying experiences of my life.  I was certain that even if Justin and I were to survive a bolt, that my one-month old baby in the back seat would not. 

We finally, after what seemed like forever, got into town.  I'm not sure I've ever felt so relieved.  Now we laugh about what idiots we were for not realizing the storm was headed our way, for not noticing that the deer were acting very strange, and mostly for driving all the way over to Colorado to not see a single one of the big overlooks, but to land ourselves in the middle of that mess.  Thankfully, our baby slept through the entire experience.  I'm not sure how she managed that, but I count it a blessing, because I don't know that my nerves could have handled her screaming in the background.  I saw this in the news this morning.  We were east of this, where allegedly these sorts of storms intensify, and of course, at almost 8,000 feet altitude.  The great news is, that not only did we survive the experience without being struck by lightning, hitting a deer, or hydroplaning off the road, but we arrived home at 2am, with our first little family picture: 

Saturday, August 23, 2014


Justin had the day off today, so we decided to go check out that store Scheels in Sandy that we drive by all the time, but have never visited.  It seemed like the whole experience would be more fun if there were kids along older than ours.  Not a problem, I called Sarah and arranged to borrow two of hers.  I love that Thor is selecting his own outfits these days.
To be honest we weren't that taken with Scheels.  It was kind of interesting, but I'm pretty sure we'll never be back.  The kids loved it.  They loved the ferris wheel, the fish tank (which I found to be rather underwhelming), the kid's play area (that looked like a large cage full of unruly children), and the cafe where we treated them to ice cream after spending the afternoon exploring the entire store.  

Here's a picture of them with Justin on the ferris wheel.  
And this is the photo that you can take that superimposes a game animal into the picture with you.  The kids didn't really seem to be getting the vision of how this works, but I suppose that makes the picture all the more amusing.
As predicted the best part about the Scheels experience was the kids.  The highlight of our day was actually at the very end when we were sitting in the cafe, and I had just finished nursing the baby.  She promptly barfed up seemingly everything she had just eaten and was acting desperately hungry again.  The conversation went something like this:

Thor: Great, now Julie is going to have to unlatch and feed her again.

(Although what we heard was "great, now Julie is going to have to unlatch her feeder again.")

Justin:  What?  Her feeder?

Winnie: [giggling] That's not what it's called.  It's called 'boobies.'  Erica told me.

Who knew that Erica was the authority on such matters? 

(For those of you who don't know them, Erica and Winnie are cousins, and only a few months apart in age.)

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Fun Times We're Already Having Together

I have been toying with the idea of creating a baby book.  You know, the sort of thing where you write down every little milestone, and tape in weird things, like apparently the little clamp from the umbilical cord...the nurse asked me if I wanted to keep it.  No, I would not like to take home that piece of trash to tape it in a book and assign some sentimental value to it.  We did however keep the little wrist bands.  My mother did not keep a baby book for me, and I've been wondering if I would care anything about it if she had.  I've decided that I probably wouldn't,  It would just be one more item that I'd drag from one residence to the next, because it's not the sort of thing one throws away, and assume that someday someone would want to look at it because they would care what day I first rolled over, sat up, or stood on my own.  Justin's mom made one for him that she keeps, and I thought it was very interesting.  Although Justin seemed entirely disinterested.  So I find myself torn on the issue, my baby might not think much of it, but maybe her spouse or kids will?  I finally decided that instead of buying a baby book perhaps I could just make one of my own, with little things that I think are interesting, and if my kid doesn't, that's okay.  I'll keep it for my own entertainment, and someday have her spouse look through it.  I will pressure him into pretending that he loves it, regardless of whether or not he does.  So I decided to start by making a cover page with her foot and hand prints on it.

We started yesterday.  After multiple attempts I was finally able to produce two little footprints.  We were both covered in pink and purple paint and I'm pretty sure she hated me, which I thought wasn't supposed to happen for another 13 years or something.  I decided to continue on with the hand prints, since she was already so angry with me, I thought I had nothing to lose.  I was wrong, this kid has a set of lungs on her.  My hearing was in jeopardy.  She was simply not having it.  I guess this is where I look like a total rookie parent...trying to get an open hand print of my three-week old baby.  I have learned.  I have learned that this is a stupid idea that will scar my baby and leave her with the impression that her mother is a torturer.  Lucky for me, her memory kind of sucks, and although I stupidly made yet another attempt at hand prints again this morning, with similar results, she seems to have already forgotten the experience...I hope.  All I have to show for my efforts are two little pink smears.  I suppose that will have to do.  I look forward to the days when she is old enough that we can do these sorts of projects together without it leaving one of us in dismay at the complete failure to accomplish the envisioned goal, and the other thrashing about and leaving little pink finger prints all over herself, her diaper, the carpet, her blanket, her mom, and pretty much everything BUT the cover page.  Someday she will realize how much fun we are having together.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Her First Real Bath

I gave our baby her first bath today.  I've been really looking forward to her losing the stump of an umbilical cord for a while now.  Partly because it had become more and more disgusting looking over time, but mostly because I couldn't wait to give her a real bath.  She abhors the sponge baths, but the real bath seems to have been a more agreeable experience.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

A Little Addition

When Justin and I first got married I came with an entire trailer full of gear.  Justin showed up with a couple of boxes.  I attributed this difference in personal possessions to the age gap, and the fact that I'd spent years living on my own.  This made sense to me, and still does.  Now what does not make sense to me is that our offspring has finally arrived and she has been accompanied with massive amounts of gear.  Our apartment has been hijacked and taken over by supplies for the youngest and smallest member of our family, and the one with a complete inability to procure these items for herself.  It's crazy.  We love it.

She and I spend hours together every day doing nothing, since Justin has given me strict orders to follow the doctor's advice to just be resting and recovering right now.  I don't follow those instructions quite as diligently as Justin would like.  I told him the other day that I feel like "I'm recovering" is just code for "this is a good excuse for me to be lazy."  To break the monotony, yesterday we played dress up together for a few hours.  She tried on all kinds of outfits that have been gifted to her by her Aunt Sarah.  I am fairly certain that one of us enjoyed the experience, and the other one hated it.  I made it up to her by allowing her to spend the rest of the day nursing, her favorite thing to do.  It's obvious to us that this is her favorite thing to do, but really any lingering doubts about that were put to rest the other night.  I fell asleep with her on the couch, while trying to let her dad get some sleep in the other room.  I woke up to her having managed to latch on and start nursing through my garment top.  I didn't even know such a thing was possible, but there you have it.

So far this whole baby thing hasn't been too bad.  Although, periodically Justin and I have remarked to each other that we pity her a bit for having us for parents.  We really have no clue what we're doing, most of the time.